Teachers and students of Enid Scatliffe Primary participating in the 2012 Culture Week.
Photo Credit: Gordon French/BVI Platinum News
A call has been made for educators to play a role in teaching the youth the vital importance of their identity as Virgin Islanders.
Hon. Myron Walwyn, Education and Culture Minister speaking at the Education Week awards ceremony held on Saturday, March 16 at the Multipurpose Sports Complex, said as a policy maker he gets a picture of the Virgin Islands five years down the road and it's often very concerning.
The Minister began by outlining that he understands the challenge of finding competent young people to match the needs of the workforce. He lamented that they are faced with either the decision to grant more work permits for the continuation of the economy, or seek to challenge students, raise standards and ensure that they can be competitive in the new global economy.
To make his point, the Minister said he sits in meetings with tourism stakeholders that show policy makers that visitors want heritage tourism.
"No one wants to travel all the way to our islands and leave without a taste of true Virgin Islands culture. Do we continue to pay expats to be advocates of our culture, or do we teach tourism, Virgin Islands History and Virgin Islands pride in our classrooms, so that members of the class of 2013 can easily get jobs as tourism professionals," he asked.
Minister Walwyn also gave an example of 2009 Road Town August Festival Parade where Filipinos were not shy about their culture which was depicted through their troupes.
"A few years ago during the August Monday parade I saw something I thought I would never see in the Virgin Islands. The community of persons from the Philippines had a wonderful troupe in our parade. I am not here to knock them for their pride and display of their culture, but when our young people go off to school and other countries, do they so proudly display our Virgin Islands culture, or do they come back home, talking about swag, the Harlem shake and now have an appetite for Micky D´s instead of some good peas soup?"
The Education Minister asked how do they help to ground their children in their identity as Virgin Islanders so that they can embrace other cultures and at the same time see theirs as equally important.
"How does our education system produce the next generation of Virgin Islanders that are intellectually competitive, are grounded in their identity and are prepared to move the Virgin Islands forward, just as our past leaders, Hon. H. Lavity Stoutt, Hon. Cyril B. Romney, Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal and now, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith were all challenged to do?"
He said from his vantage point as the Minister of Education, Culture and Youth Affairs, he realizes that the education policy makers and professionals must create a system that can answer today´s challenges in order to give each young person a fighting chance at success and guarantee the future prosperity of their islands.
To this end, he challenged educators to think further outside the box.
"What can you do differently in the classroom to ensure that our
students are prepared for today´s world and a 21st century work place? I want you to consider how we can better use technology in school to reach our students. While we might have been able to use the library to conduct all of our research, how do we teach our young people to use their mobile and digital devices for study instead of fun and games?"
He added, "I challenge all of us to do things differently in education. We must have the courage to recognize what is working and what is not working. The option to do nothing in our education system is not an option that we can afford as a society."
The Minister also spoke to the importance of having the next generation of Virgin Islanders to be the faces and the names of the financial sector.
"To ensure that the industry that brings the largest amount of revenue to the treasury remains competitive and an opportunity where Virgin Islanders can realize their personal and professional ambitions? Those are questions that we must answer today to ensure our young people have a chance tomorrow," Minister Walwyn stated.
Education week was observed from March 10 to 16 under the theme, "Creating a Culture of Excellence through Prevention and Intervention" with major focus on literacy.